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Classroom therapy dog helping Lake Stevens students de-stress

"Better living through belly rubs" is a lesson high school teacher Ruth Smethers hopes is being learned.

LAKE STEVENS, Wash. — The most popular kid in Ruth Smethers' Lake Stevens High School classroom isn’t a kid at all. Ganesha, a 3-year-old Golden Retriever, is a therapy dog for Smethers' special education students.

"I really like her. She's fun," said junior Tana Skogen.

Ganesha is new to the school this year just like Molly Demma, who was grateful to find an instant friend.

"The school day is kind of tough for me," said Demma. "I'll come in here second period and chill with her and that helps me relieve stress."

Ganesha is the second therapy dog Smethers has brought into her classroom. Another Golden Retriever name Shiva was at the school for a decade but passed away recently.

Smethers buys, trains, and certifies the dogs at her own expense. She said they create a culture of happiness. 

"If we'd all be more like a dog, wouldn't that be wonderful?" Smethers chuckled. "Every day is a new day. Every day is a positive day. Everyone is a friend."

Many of Smethers' students suffer from anxiety and some are on the autism spectrum. Other students like Cecilia Barreto struggle with the stress of taking tests. That's where Ganesha in her sweet selfless way works her magic.

"I usually come in here to take my tests," Barreto said. "She just walks around, sits and lets me pet her. It's very calming and I do much better."

"It just makes all of your worries go away," student Heidi Ruse added.

You could call it: better living through belly rubs. It's a lesson Smethers hopes will help her stressed students better succeed in school and beyond.

"Be more like a dog," she said. "Just don't bark."

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